Definition of tarantella in English:


(also tarantelle)


  • 1A rapid whirling dance originating in southern Italy.

    • ‘The score has also been slightly rearranged - the ballet opens with a tableau set to Renaissance lute music, while the third-act tarantella is moved into the first act.’
    • ‘She does so by asking him to help her rehearse the dance - the tarantella - that she must perform the following evening.’
    • ‘Finland has no distinctive folk dance - no highland fling, morris dance or tarantella.’
    • ‘Perhaps the most commonly recognized folk dance, the tarantella, for example, is Neapolitan, with little diffusion elsewhere in the peninsula.’
    • ‘The American artist celebrated his eighty-first birthday at Villa Narcissus, his home on the island of Capri, by dancing the tarantella.’
    1. 1.1A piece of music written in fast 6/8 time in the style of this dance.
      • ‘By the 19th century, however, musicians made more money out of tarantellas by their popularity as compositions.’
      • ‘The finale is a headlong, moto perpetuo tarantella in additive rhythms, the marimba's breakneck acceleration echoed by the quartet: the unisono final phrase for the quintet was breathtaking.’
      • ‘The third alteration becomes an A-minor tarantella.’
      • ‘The book contains a variety of styles, including sonata, tarantella and waltz, allowing students and teachers to explore the wide range of technical, musical and ensemble challenges in this literature.’
      • ‘This collection of Italian waltzes, polkas, mazurkas and tarantellas for solo violin is an excellent teaching tool for double stops, scales, arpeggios and style.’


Late 18th century: Italian, from the name of the seaport Taranto; so named because it was thought to be a cure for tarantism, the victim dancing the tarantella until exhausted. See also tarantula.